Reflections About Election Day 2010

I’ve never told you about my dad. Since this is a violin blog, he doesn’t really have much bearing on that. Well, other than that he basically bankrolled my violin habit until I turned 18. I sort of owe him I guess. My dad passed away in 2002, and I still regret that I wasted many opportunities to tell him he was right, about a lot of things.

Perhaps the two most important lessons I learned from my dad were: my actions, or lack thereof, can make a difference (maybe not for me, but for someone else); and conflict is inevitable, especially when principles are involved.

This year, these lessons had the unusual opportunity to coalesce in the realm of politics. The Man of the House and I both worked on a couple of political campaigns because for us it was not only the right thing to do but the only thing we could do, given what was at stake in this election. Unfortunately, we ended up on the side with fewer votes. You never lose when you stand solidly for what you believe in. I suppose many on the other side are thinking that very same thing. Just as unfortunate is that our social and constitutional beliefs are apparently not even on the same planet.

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our system. They would not work if citizens were not willing to step up and participate in the process. On Election Day, I was given the honor and privilege of being a precinct election official. I didn’t think I would actually be appointed when I applied, but they said “election workers needed” so I waved my hand wildly in the air jumped up and down and yelled Oooh, Oooh, pick me! Pick me! filled out my application and mailed it in. It was something I felt I could do. It was the least I could do.

Running a computer is well within my skillset.

It was an interesting diversion from my normal schedule. Even though it was a very long day, I would do it again if asked. It was personally rewarding, fun and I felt like I was truly contributing to something much larger than myself. It far outweighed jury duty on my personal “good citizenship” scale. Plus, I got this cool little gold pin shaped like the state of Iowa, imprinted with “1846-2010 Election Official.” By the end of my 16-hour shift, I sort of felt like I’d been around since 1846.

As anticipated, it was busy all day. People waited in line for upwards of thirty minutes toward the end of the day. It was 9:10 before the last voter in line when the polls officially closed stuck their ballot in the scanner. I did a little bit of everything, from setting up the computers to double checking the election register to handing out ballots to watching the scanner. I registered new voters, helped with provisional ballots, watched the poll watchers, and helped count write-in votes. And I carried the chairman’s snacks into the building before anything else, which earned me major brownie points. See, I know what’s really important about public service: free food.

On a much more personal note, I was taken aback not as much by the results, but by the margins of the results.

And now for a bit of Violinnovator history: I was a Reagan Republican in my early voting days. (Please commiserate if you feel led. Or point and laugh at my naivety.)

I chose that option mostly to spite my dad, who was a lifelong Democrat. But I also foolishly believed that “trickle down” economics would work, and that my life would get better.

That changed in a hurry when Mr. Reagan said that the homeless were homeless by choice.

Because at the time, I was bordering on homeless and having a really tough time financially. It was mostly my fault, through poor choices I made, but still. I knew a lot of homeless people and I volunteered at shelters and donated when I could. The President’s view of reality was neither the one I saw regularly nor the one in which I lived. The first president Bush didn’t help matters all that much with all his talk about “compassionate conservatism.” The only thing even remotely compassionate about it is that people talk nicely to you and nod and smile when you recount your difficulties. It’s still that way, even now. And it makes me cringe.

The results from Election Day 2010 are just as cringeworthy. The people in my district elected anti-immigrant-Hispanic-family-gay-women-Muslim “Christians” to our state legislature and senate, and the governor’s office. Something tells me they won’t be representing those groups or others who hold different views. I discovered some time back that my US Representative doesn’t represent constituents who feel differently than he does.

This election cycle was was ugly, mean-spirited and financed unethically on multiple fronts (thank you, Citizen’s United!) It was filled with innuendo, hate, distortion and outright lies. It wasn’t about jobs or the so-called Obama agenda. It was about discrimination, isolationism and plutocracy. I don’t know about you, but my reading and remembrance of social, political and economic history isn’t very complimentary to the US in the late 19th-century, 1920s, 1950s, 1960s or 2000s. The comparisons to Nazi Germany aren’t too far off the mark, no matter how much we might believe otherwise. (And, no, I don’t think I’m being melodramatic.)

The judicial retention vote in Iowa ended up being a colossal waste of money, on both sides. If this had truly been about changing the law, the emphasis would have been on calling a convention, not on the judges. When a small majority of voters throws out judges based on one court decision yet overwhelmingly rejects a call for a constitutional convention to permanently solve the issue created by said court decision, it is clear that nothing was really changed by the vote. Except that it upset a lot of people and created ill-will on both sides of an issue that never should have been one to begin with. The financial implications to the state were never mentioned, which is strange when you consider that one of the major talking points was saving money and smaller government. Something tells me that’s not going to happen, either. Perhaps one of Governor-elect Branstad’s first orders of business should be to come up with a new state motto. The one that served Iowa well for the past 164 years — “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain” — was officially torched on November 2. It obviously no longer reflects the will of the people or the climate of our state.

The America that spoke in these elections is not the America I know. The Iowa that spoke is not the Iowa that I know. There must be something wrong with my internal processor, because I don’t understand what happened. I am disheartened, disillusioned, and defeatist. Well, for today anyway. And probably for the near future.

Those of you who read my blog regularly or are actually personal acquaintances and friends know that I don’t wax political constantly and I don’t wear blue donkeys. Or yellow moons, pink hearts and green clovers. Or whatever the heck is in the Lucky Charms box. I don’t proselytize or preach during lessons about anything other than violin. Since violins rule the world. If you didn’t know that, you should.

My life is about to change. Drastically. That is the only thing I know for certain. Other people’s fear — played out in the voting booth — just impinged on my individual liberties and possibly my first amendment right to speak my mind freely. What happened on Election Day 2010 was immoral, unethical and ignorant.  While I sincerely hope that the Republicans will moderate a bit and come back toward the center, I try to be a realist, and some of the proposals that have been put forth by newly-elected officials both in Iowa and Congress are truly frightening in their consequences.

Music soothes both the savage beast and wounded campaign workers. Music is a fitting substitute for conciliation that will not be forthcoming from this new face of America. So, I will go practice before I say something really stupid and inflammatory start railing on truth, justice and the American way. What was the American way is obviously not anymore, so I should stop before I get arrested as a terrorist or something. Because I’m sure that John Boehner has his eye on me. Or my teaching assistant, who is every bit as threatening to our national security as I am:

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